Mozilla Layoffs Highlight Firefox’s Challenges

Mozilla is laying off 70 employees, according to a report in TechCrunch.

TechCrunch obtained an internal memo from interim CEO Mitchell Baker that reportedly ties the layoffs to Mozilla’s failure to roll out “revenue-generating products.” Laid-off employees will receive exit packages and outplacement support.

“Mozilla has a strong line of sight to future revenue generation, but we are taking a more conservative approach to our finances,” Baker wrote. “This will enable us to pivot as needed to respond to market threats to internet health, and champion user privacy and agency.”

In a subsequent note posted to Mozilla’s corporate blog, Baker confirmed that the firm was eliminating roles, but declined to state how many: “We’re making a significant investment to fund innovation. In order to do that responsibly, we’ve also had to make some difficult choices which led to the elimination of roles at Mozilla which we announced internally today.”

Over the 22 years of its existence, Mozilla has rolled out a number of popular products, most notably the Firefox browser. It’s also plunged into email clients (with Thunderbird), Firefox OS (an interesting idea that died an ignoble death), Bugzilla (for vulnerability-tracking), and more. Mozilla has been testing a Firefox Private Network that will cost $4.99 once it launches (you can join the waitlist). Considering the massive competition that the company faces from other browser-makers, email providers, and enterprise-software producers, anything that can provide a steady stream of dollars is obviously welcome.

Mozilla’s layoffs highlight some of the difficulties confronting a number of tech companies at the moment. Even if you offer a popular product (the Firefox browser maintains a slice of the global browser market, despite aggressive competition from the likes of Chrome and Safari), that doesn’t necessarily translate into the revenue necessary to keep your infrastructure running and your technologists adequately paid. It’s especially difficult when consumers (and many businesses) insist on receiving your product for either insanely cheap or free.

Mozilla’s ability to survive will also have a significant impact on the seemingly unending browser wars, where Firefox acts as a strong alternative to Chrome, Safari, and Microsoft’s Edge. And that, in turn, affects how the mobile and desktop web will evolve in coming years.